Thursday, September 20, 2012

Notes on Lenin, the Russian civil war, red terror, "The Black Book," and prostitution (literal & figurative)
- [Makes mention that part of War Communism was that "strikers could be shot," which itself is a quite ambiguous statement. The citation for this is: Nicolas Werth, "Histoire de l'Union Soviétique de Lénine à Staline," 1995. Co-author of Black Book of Communism (see below). It's not exactly clear what this is in reference to or what exactly this is based on ... ]
- After reading Werth's "Histoire," I could find absolutely no mention of strikers being shot. It certainly covers a lot of other people being shot by the Cheka during the civil war (i.e., Whites, SRs, kulaks, etc, i.e., the enemy forces). But the only thing I could find that even comes close to this in the book was the following sentence, which appears in a section dealing with the repression of War Communism: "The unions, many of which were not obedient to the Bolsheviks (railway, postal workers, typographers, employees, etc.), were either dissolved or reduced to the role of a 'transmission belt.'" (Presses Universitaires de France, 1995, p. 20)
- Leaving aside the question of the veracity of this statement there is certainly a world of difference between the supposed dissolution of unions hostile to the Bolsheviks and/or Soviet government, on the one hand, and a policy of shooting workers who go on strike, on the other.
The Black Book of Communism: ""It is quite clear that preparations are being made for a White Guard uprising in Nizhni Novgorod," wrote Lenin in a telegram on 9 August 1918 to the president of the Executive Committee of the Nizhni Novgorod soviet, in response to a report about peasant protests against requisitioning. "Your first response must be to establish a dictatorial troika (i.e., you, Markin, and one other person) and introduce mass terror, shooting or deporting the hundreds of prostitutes who are causing all the soldiers to drink, all the ex-officers, etc. There is not a moment to lose; you must act resolutely, with massive reprisals. Immediate execution for anyone caught in possession of a firearm. Massive deportations of Mensheviks and other suspect elements." []
"The Black Book of Communism sets out to address: the inability and -- for a great many -- the outright refusal to recognize the unmitigated evil that communism was and is ... [it proffers an] editorial outlook which asserts that Communism, in all its historical forms, is morally equivalent to Nazism ... The clearest picture to emerge from these pages is that the history of Communism is, at its simplest, little more than the history of an all-out assault on society by a series of conspiratorial cliques. These groups have, invariably, been led by excruciatingly cruel dictators who were revoltingly drunk on their own foolish ideology and power."
- [Published by Harvard University Press, written by career anti-communist hacks and apologists for capitalism; largely influenced by work of FA Hayek - conservative economist, connected with Milton and 'Chicago School,' virulent anti-communist, yet admirer of Pinochet, even taking honorary position in Pinochet government.]

Lenin on "prostitutes": What is he talking about in quote above? Is he referring to literal sex-workers, or is he using this word in the political sense which he often did to refer insultingly to political opponents (i.e., Cadets, Mensheviks, bourgeois-liberals, kulaks, etc.)? Why would he want sex-workers to be shot, when he simultanesouly advocated organizing sex workers on the basis of their position as exploited and oppressed members of the working masses? If Lenin is talking about literal prostitutes here, we have to say that this is an odious sentiment. We can only assume that he was here either exaggerating for dramatic effect (i.e., not giving an actual order to shoot prostitutes); or was here engaging in an excess born of his anxiety during the darkest moment of the Civil War when this letter was written [i.e., this is the only instance in all of his writings in which such a ridiculous measure is advocated against prostitutes/non-combatants, i.e., it was not a practice, habit, or policy to engage in such behavior and it does not even come up beyond this one piece of correspondence]. Moreover, we, unfortunately, do not know what actually came of this particular situation in Nizhni Novgorod in the immediate days following this letter, i.e., as to whether 'hundreds' of prostitutes were actually shot, so it is difficult to verify the precise meaning and impact of Lenin's words here, taken out of context as they were.
"Duchesses, countesses, bishops, priests, rabbis, police officials and all sorts of bourgeois philanthropists were well to the fore! How many festive luncheons and magnificent official receptions were given! And how many solemn speeches on the harm and infamy of prostitution! What means of struggle were proposed by the elegant bourgeois delegates to the congress? Mainly two methods—religion and police. When the Austrian delegate G\"artner tried to raise the question of the social causes of prostitution, of the need and poverty experienced by working-class families, of the exploitation of child labour, of unbearable housing conditions, etc., he was forced to silence by hostile shouts! We may judge from this the disgusting bourgeois hypocrisy that reigns at these aristocratic-bourgeois congresses. Acrobats in the field of philanthropy and police defenders of this system which makes mockery of poverty and need gather “to struggle against prostitution”, which is supported precisely by the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie...."
"Millions upon millions of women in such families live (or, rather, exist) as “domestic slaves”, striving to feed and clothe their family on pennies, at the cost of desperate daily effort and “saving” on everything—except their own labour. It is these women that the capitalists most willingly employ as home-workers, who are prepared for a monstrously low wage to “earn a little extra” for themselves and their family, for the sake of a crust of bread. It is from among these women, too, that the capitalists of all countries recruit for themselves (like the ancient slave-owners and the medieval feudal lords) any number of concubines at a most “reasonable” price. And no amount of “moral indignation” (hypocritical in 99 cases out of 100) about prostitution can do anything against this trade in female flesh; so long as wage-slavery exists, inevitably prostitution too will exist.... Our workers’ associations and trade unions, too, ought to organise an “exhibition” of this kind. It will not yield the colossal profits brought in by the exhibitions, of the bourgeoisie. A display of proletarian women’s poverty and indigence will bring a different benefit: it will help wage-slaves, both men and women, to understand their condition, look back over their “life”, ponder the conditions for emancipation from this perpetual yoke of want, poverty, prostitution and every kind of outrage against the have-nots."
"When reading things like this, one can scarcely believe the evidence of one’s eyes. What a degree of senile decay and prostitution has been reached by present-day professorial science!"
"... the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders have prostituted the Soviets, have reduced their role to that of a talking shop, of an accomplice in the compromising policy of the leaders.... The sad history of the prostitution of the Soviets by the Tseretelis and Chernovs, the history of the "coalition", is also the history of the liberation of the Soviets from petty-bourgeois illusions, of their passage through the "purgatory" of the practical experience of the utter abomination and filth of all and sundry bourgeois coalitions.... in order to frustrate the Soviets, to reduce them to nought, to prostitute them (with the aid of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries), to transform them into talking-shops, to wear down the peasants and workers by months and months of empty talk and playing at revolution.
"I was told that a talented woman communist in Hamburg is publishing a paper for prostitutes and that she wants to organise them for the revolutionary fight. Rosa acted and felt as a communist when in an article she championed the cause of the prostitutes who were imprisoned for any transgression of police regulations in carrying on their dreary trade. They are, unfortunately, doubly sacrificed by bourgeois society. First, by its accursed property system, and, secondly, by its accursed moral hypocrisy. That is obvious. Only he who is brutal or short-sighted can forget it."
 " ... And the crudeness of the Americans’ rapacious imperialism may be seen from the fact that American agents are buying white slaves, women and girls, and shipping them to America for the development of prostitution. Just think, free, cultured America supplying white slaves for brothels!"
"On the other hand, Mr. Milyukov and his gang revealed themselves in all their old glory as shameless and unprincipled careerists. In the adopted resolution they gloss over the issue in order to fool the public at large, in the way that the liberal heroes of parliamentary prostitution have always fooled the people."
"Thieves, male prostitutes, venal writers, venal newspapers. Such is our “big press”. Such is the flower of our “high” society."
"I have written about the Duma in Nos. 12, 14 and 15 of Proletary. I am also writing in No. 16, which will come out on September 12 (new style)[1] . In Posledniye Izvestia (September 1, new style, No. 247) the Bund talked itself popeyed. We’ll give them a whipping they won’t forget till   they’re able to sit up again. These Bundists are such dolts and trumpeters, such nitwits and idiots, they are the limit! Iskra has got tangled up in lies, especially Martov in the Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung (August 24, new style—translation in Proletary No. 15). For heaven’s sake, don’t rush in with an official resolution and do not give way an inch to this Bundist-new-Iskrist conference. Is it true that there will be no minutes? How can one possibly confer with these prostitutes without minutes?"
"Wherever possible we shall strive to set up our committees, committees of the Social-   Democratic Labour Party. They will consist of peasants, paupers, intellectuals, prostitutes (a worker recently asked us in a letter why not carry on agitation among the prostitutes), soldiers, teachers, workers—in short, all Social-Democrats, and none but Social-Democrats. These committees will conduct the whole of Social-Democratic work, in its full scope, striving, however, to organise the rural proletariat especially and particularly, since the Social-Democratic Party is the class party of the proletariat. To consider it “unorthodox” to organise a proletariat which has not entirely freed itself from various relics of the past is a tremendous delusion, and we would like to think that the relevant passages of the letter are due to a mere misunderstanding. The urban and industrial proletariat will inevitably be the nucleus of our Social-Democratic Labour Party, but we must attract to it, enlighten, and organise all who labour and are exploited, as stated in our programme—all without exception: handicraftsmen, paupers, beggars, servants, tramps, prostitutes—of course, subject to the necessary and obligatory condition that they join the Social-Democratic movement and not that the Social-Democratic movement join them, that they adopt the standpoint of the proletariat, and not that the proletariat adopt theirs."
Lenin mimicking reformist socialists who try to temper the 1905 workers' uprising: "Workers! We are too weak for an uprising. Therefore, do not talk and do not let the Osvobozhdeniye prostitutes, the Constitutional-Democrats, and Duma supporters talk of a revolution; do not allow those bourgeois scoundrels to sully a great popular concept with their claptrap."
"We are witnessing a highly instructive and highly comical spectacle. The bourgeois liberal prostitutes are trying to drape themselves in the toga of revolution. The Osvobozhdentsi—risum teneatis, amici![2]—the Osvobozhdentsi are beginning to speak in the name of the revolution! The Osvobozhdentsi are beginning to assure us that they “do not fear revolution” (Mr. Struve in the Osvobozhdeniye, No. 72)!!! The Osvobozhdentsi are voicing their claims “to be at the head of the revolution”!!!"
"The problem is how to approach the peasants in the course of practical work, how to organise the poor and middle peasants so as to be able at every step to combat their gravita- tion towards the past, their attempts to go back to free trading activities, their constant striving to be “free” producers. The word “freedom” is a good word. We meet it at every step: freedom to trade, freedom to sell, freedom to sell one self, and so forth. And there are Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, rascals, who garble and distort this beautiful word “freedom” in every newspaper and in every speech. But these are all crooks, capitalism’s prostitutes, who are trying to drag the people back to the past."

The civil war in the Autumn of 1918 - the Bolshevik's darkest hour (i.e., around the time of when the above letter was written): The authors of Black Book reveal: "'The Bolsheviks are saying openly that their days are numbered,' Karl Helfferich, the German ambassador to Moscow, told his government on 3 August 1918. "A veritable panic has overtaken Moscow ...'
   "The Bolsheviks certainly never felt as much under threat as they did in 1918. The territory they controlled amounted to little more than the traditional province of Moscow, which now faced anti-Bolshevik opposition on 3 solidaly established fronts: the first in the region of the Don, occupied by teh Cossak troops of Ataman Krasnov and by General Denikin's White Army; the second in Ukraine, which was in the hands of the Germans and of the Rada, the national Ukraine government; and a third front all along the Trans-Siberian Railway, where most of the big cities had fallen to the Czech Legion, whose offensive had been supported by the SR govt in Samara.
   "In the regions that were more or less under Bolshevik control, nearly140 major revolts and insurrections broke out in the summer of 1918; most involved peasant communities resisting the enforced commandeering of food supplies; protests against the limitations on trade and exchange; or protests against the new compulsory conscription for the Red Army. Typically the angry peasants would flock en masse to the nearest town, besiege the soviet, and sometimes even attempt to set fire to it." (Black Book, p.71)
- On top of this - 1918 = assassination attempts, bombings/attacks on Bolshevik offices and Soviet delegates/workers/soldiers/offices.
- Civil war = violence, murder, mass repression/disarming of enemy ... Abraham Lincoln and American Civil War ("mass murderer"; forced conscription) = 1 million casualties (3% of total pop), including 600,000 soldier deaths and 50,000 civilians (
- Authors of 'Black Book' are like apologists for Southern Confederacy documenting the "evil crimes" of the Northern Abolitionists.
Lenin to Clara Zetkin, 26 July 1918: "We here are now living through perhaps the most difficult weeks of the whole revolution. The class struggle and the civil war have penetrated deep among the population: everywhere there is a split in the villages—the poor are for us, the kulaks are furiously against us. The Entente has bought the Czechoslovaks, a counter-revolutionary revolt is raging, the bourgeoisie is making every effort to overthrow us. Nevertheless, we firmly believe that we shall escape this “usual” (as in 1794 and 1849) course of the revolution, and will conquer the bourgeoisie.... We are all extremely glad that you. Comrade Mehring and the other “Spartacus comrades” in Germany are with us, “head and heart”.[1] This gives us confidence that the best elements of the West-European working class—in spite of all difficulties—will nevertheless come to our assistance."
"Only today we have heard at the C.C. that in Petrograd the workers wanted to reply to the murder of Volodarsky by mass terror and that you (not you personally, but the Petrograd Central Committee members, or Petrograd Committee members) restrained them. I protest most emphatically! We are discrediting ourselves: we threaten mass terror, even in resolutions of the Soviet of Deputies, yet when it comes to action we obstruct the revolutionary initiative of the masses, a quite correct one. This is im-poss-ible! This is wartime above all. We must encourage the energy and mass character of the terror against the counter-revolutionaries, and particularly in Petrograd, the example of which is decisive." [Volodarsky, V.—a leader of the Petrograd Bolsheviks, editor of the Petrograd newspaper Krasnaya Gazeta (Red Gazette) and member of the Presidium of the Petrograd Soviet. He was murdered on June 20, 1918 by Socialist-Revolutionaries]
"Act in the most resolute way against the kulaks and the Left Socialist-Revolutionary scoundrels who have made common cause with them. Issue appeals to the poor peasants. Organise them. Ask for help from Yelets. Essential to suppress the kulak extortioners mercilessly. Telegraph."
"Essential to combine ruthless suppression of the kulak Left Socialism-Revolutionary rising with confiscation of all the grain from the kulaks and exemplary clearing out in full of grain surpluses, distributing part of the grain free to the poor peasants. Telegraph fulfilment."
"I allow myself to express the following wishes on the question of fulfilment of the Council of People’s Commissars’ resolution of August 29, on the submission of reports within one week:
In the reports, which must be as popular as possible, it is particularly necessary to note
(a) improvement in the position of the masses (raising of wages for the workers, school-teachers, etc.), (b) participation of the workers in administration ( personally outstanding workers, workers’ organisations likewise, etc.), (c) participation of the poor peasants and their help to Soviet power in the struggle against the kulaks, (d) expropriation of the landowners, capitalists, traders, financiers, etc.... The main task is to demonstrate concretely, with facts, exactly how Soviet power has made definite steps (the first) towards socialism."
"I have received your telegram of January 20, 1918. Hearty thanks for your energetic measures regarding food. Go on trying for God’s sake as hard as you can to secure foodstuffs, press on with collection and delivery of grain, so as to arrange supply before the spring floods. All hopes are on you, otherwise famine by the spring is inevitable."
"In view of your failure to fulfil my insistent request to point out to me the justification for raising my salary as from March 1, 1918, from 500 to 800 rubles a month, and in view of the obvious illegality of this increase, carried out by you arbitrarily by agreement with the secretary of the Council, Nikolai Petrovich Gorbunov, and in direct infringement of the decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of November 23, 1917, I give you a severe reprimand.... [Lenin refers to the decision of the Council of People’s Commissars, passed on November 18 (December 1), 1917, “On the Remuneration of People’s Commissars, Senior Government Employees and Officials”, = which he had drafted. It set the maximum monthly salary for Commissars at 500 rubles with an allowance of 100 rubles for each member of the family unable to work.]"
"We have had news today that the Spartacus group, together with the Bremen Left Radicals,[2] has taken the most energetic steps to promote the setting up of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils throughout Germany. I take this opportunity to send our best wishes to the German revolutionary internationalist Social-Democrats. The work of the German Spartacus group, which has carried on systematic revolutionary propaganda in the most difficult conditions, has really saved the honour of German socialism and the German proletariat. Now the decisive hour is at hand: the rapidly maturing German revolution calls on the Spartacus group to play the most important role, and we all firmly hope that before long the German socialist proletarian republic will inflict a decisive blow on world imperialism.... With best greetings and firm hopes that in the very near future it will be possible to hail the victory of the proletarian revolution in Germany."

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